Photo ©Jean Janssen

Natasha is vaccinated and ready to travel. In the last two weeks, I have visited Washington DC, the Mouse in Orlando, Florida, and made stops in Maryland and Pennsylvania enroute to a wedding in Hershey, PA. I am off to Michigan in a couple of days to visit my mom who I haven’t seen in a year and a half; in other words, it is the most important trip of the year.

Over 60% of all adult Americans have now been vaccinated for COVID-19. Most of the remaining group are not limited by access or availability, but desire. This is definitely the harder part of reaching herd immunity, convincing those that are skeptical to get vaccinated.

Photo ©Jean Janssen

Vaccinated or not, Americans are on the move if the airports are any indication. Our flight to Baltimore (BWI) was completely full (as were all the other flights I took in the last few weeks) and the TSA security check line was the longest I have ever seen in that terminal; it snaked around the IAH terminal B lobby.

Photo ©Jean Janssen

There was another wait to grab a quick breakfast. Most fast food establishments find it difficult to find workers when government unemployment benefits exceed what their take-home salary would be. We made it to the gate in time and boarded our 2 and 2 seat plane for the 3 hours and 15 minute flight.

Photo @ Jean Janssen

We used carryon bags, so no waiting for luggage in Baltimore, but we did have to wait quite a while for the rental car shuttle. At least one bus passed us by, already full from other airport pickup stops. The rental car terminal was a nightmare. We had prepaid for a rental through Dollar. Their office was completely closed. Thrifty and Dollar customers were diverted to the Hertz line. There was at least 70-100 people in front of us and the line was exceptionally slow with only two check-in counters open (again, staff shortages).

Photo ©Jean Janssen

After 45 minutes in line when we had barely moved, I contacted American Express and opened a claim on the prepaid charge through booking.com./rentalcars.com. I had been unable to reach them and Dollar online or via telephone. Boris went over to AVIS and got us a mid-sized car for slightly more money.

By the time we got on the road, 2 1/2 hours after our plane landed, it was after 4 pm on a Friday heading into rush hour traffic. Ironically, the GPS took us into downtown Baltimore rather than around. We later met another couple at the wedding that had the same thing happen to them. So I can check off a tour of downtown Baltimore and the many lane changes we had to navigate.

Photo ©Jean Janssen

After the downtown detour, it was pretty smooth driving all the way to Hershey, PA. Signage to the Hershey Lodge, where the wedding reception and additional gatherings are taking place, is not the best. We ended up at the Grill and had to drive around the side to find the lobby of this sprawling complex of hotel rooms, motel rooms, convention center, indoor water park, and pools. The convention center features two huge ballrooms that can be broken down into smaller meeting spaces in addition to the smaller fixed conference spaces.

Photo ©Jean Janssen

Staying at the Hershey Lodge is not cheap. Even with our wedding discount, our king-size bed room was $259 a night. It was a large room, but with no view. Other than the chocolate-scented toiletries and the faded Hershey Kiss wallpaper in the bathroom, there was nothing to distinguish it from a standard room. Definitely overpriced. You do get a Hershey chocolate bar for each member of your party staying the room, pool/waterpark access, and free tickets to the Hershey Gardens, but I have to believe that other local hotels are a better deal. I think discount tickets to the amusement park are also available. We did see a trolley shuttle from the elegant Hershey Hotel (not to be confused with the Lodge), but no shuttle from the Lodge. The Lodge is on the other side of the freeway and not adjacent to the other Hershey attractions.

Photo©Jean Janssen. I would have loved to have stayed at Hotel Hershey, but rates were more than 2x those at the Lodge and it was not as convenient for the wedding events. It was more fun to stay where everyone else was.

Our first night, we joined other guests that had come from out of town/state at a reception hosted by the families. I had the opportunity to spend some time with the bride who I had only met briefly before. The groom is particularly special to Boris and I and his family are dear friends. Navigating the complex was not easy and a staff member took pity on us and walked us over. We learned later that we were not the only ones he had to do that for. We had to walk through one of the convention halls and by the ballroom where an Irish Dance Competition was taking place. The girls were accomplished athletes and wore elaborate modest costumes, and the largest, tallest wigs I have ever seen. And remember, I am from Texas where big hair is a thing. One mother told us she spent $1,600 for a used dress for her daughter.

Tomorrow is the early afternoon wedding so we won’t have a lot of free time. We might try going to Amish Country in nearby Lancaster County, PA. We will see how early we get up.

–Natasha is back…

About travelbynatasha

I am a retired attorney who loves to travel. Several years ago I began working on a Century Club membership achieved by traveling to 100 "foreign" countries. Today, at 49 years of age the count is at 82. Many were visited on land based trips. Some were cruise ports. Some were dive sites. Most have been fascinating.
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